As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now, Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever and they told [Jesus] about her at once. He came to her, took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then her fever left her and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all those who were sick or possessed with demons. The whole city was gathered outside the door. And Jesus cured many who were sick of various diseases and he cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The next morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went to a deserted place, and there he prayed. Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is searching for you.” He said to them, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there, also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went, throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I’m fascinated by this last little bit of today’s Gospel, where Jesus gets up early in the morning, while it’s still dark, and goes to a deserted place, by himself, to pray. And his disciples – Simon and his companions, these new friends of his he’d just met not long before – hunted for him. They HUNTED for him!
And Jesus must have been tired. He had to be worn out. He must have been whipped after that night of crowds and healings – curing diseases and casting out demons. The whole city had gathered to bring him their sick and struggling and suffering masses. So Jesus must have spent hours holding hands and praying prayers and pouring himself out for the sake of all those strangers.
And after however much down-time and rest and solitude and prayer he was able to steal for himself in that early morning darkness, his disciples find him, interrupt him, let him know that “everyone’s searching for him,” and then he’s up again… off again… on his way again to more towns and more villages; more strangers in more synagogues; more crowds with more diseases to cure and more demons to cast out.
And you have to wonder, “Why?”. He could have stayed put. He could have let word spread and he could have waited for people to find him. He could have stayed in Capernaum – a place where it’s believed he made a home for some time and a place where he probably could have lived happily ever after – as some kind of local hero, if he’d wanted.
But Jesus was on the move again. He wasn’t comfortable with a few cured fevers and a handful of damned demons. Jesus seems to have been moved by some holy kind of discontent that wouldn’t allow him to stay put; that wouldn’t allow him to settle; that wouldn’t allow him to limit God’s grace to a moment in time; or to a one-night-spectacle; or to a single location.
Jesus was about the kingdom of God, after all – bringing it, bearing it, becoming it for the sake of the world. “Let’s go on to the neighboring towns,” he says, “so that I might proclaim the message there as well, for that is what I came out to do.” “Let’s get out of Capernaum; let’s get out of Galilee…” “Let’s get out of ourselves and do more and better because even what we’ve already done – as great as it is – isn’t enough.”
Some of you noticed when I got back from Kenya a couple of weeks ago, that it took me some time to really “get back” from Kenya. It’s easy to blame a lot of that on jet-lag and the time change and the long couple of days of planes, trains and automobiles it requires to make such a trip. And all of that takes a toll on a traveler, for sure. But I’ve also realized, over the years, whenever I’ve returned home from a trip to somewhere like Kenya, or India, or of course, Haiti, it’s more than jet-lag that wearies the soul.
It’s the perspective I get about all the things I take for granted in my life. It’s the reminder – in all of those places, from all of those people – of how deep and wide the need is in this world. It’s the conviction of how much more I would, could and should be doing to make a difference.
It’s the reality check about how hungry people are in so many ways, for nourishment of all kinds. How lost people are, in so many ways. How needy… how sick… how hurting… And how all of that is true on this side of world, too. We’re just hungry in different ways. Lost in different ways. Hurting, sick, and needy in different ways.
For every house or hospital we build in Fondwa, Haiti, there’s a hungry, homeless soul in Kisumu, Kenya.
And for every family in Africa, lost to the poverty that afflicts them, there are untold numbers of families in our neck of the woods, lost, too, in their abundance, with more money and things and stuff than they know what to do with – so lost they think more money and more things and more stuff are the way to make things better.
For every gymnast in Michigan these last few weeks whose story was told, whose villain was convicted, whose justice was served there are as many more who still go unheard, not believed, and unsaved by parents, teachers, pastors and more.
For every “me too” woman whose assailant or abuser is found responsible or fired, or whatever, there are as many more, too, without resources or recourse to redeem the injustice they’ve suffered.
For every disease cured, another diagnosis is delivered. For every demon cast out, another lurks in the shadows. We get the idea. We know the drill. It can be wearying and tiresome, for sure. But it can be convicting and inspiring, too, when we look at it all through the eyes of our faith; as followers of Jesus; as children of God.
And I think it should fill us with a holy kind of discontent – like it did Jesus – every time we turn on the news and see a hungry child or a natural disaster or another school shooting or whatever it is that makes our hearts beat with a little more emotion than usual. It’s the same sort of holy discontent we’re called to every time we gather here to make our confession and receive the forgiveness we know in bread and wine and water – and feel the nudge to share those blessings with the world. It’s the same sort of holy discontent we’re called to every time we look in the mirror or say our prayers – and give thanks to God for the blessings that are ours, in spite of ourselves.
Because the gift of God’s grace in our lives is so much more than just “ours.” It’s abundance upon abundance upon abundance and it calls us be wholly discontent with the way things are – because we know how God intends for things to be. It calls us to get moving with God’s message, like Jesus did, no matter where it may carry us – to do more, to give more, to say more, to become more for the sake of the world, by God’s grace.
So let’s find and follow Jesus, in the darkness, alone this morning; and let’s pray there, with him. Let’s find rest for our souls there. And faith for the journey. And gratitude for the invitation. And good courage to go with this God – who does not grow weary – who is already and always on the move to do justice and to redeem what is lost.
And let’s do this with grace and gusto because so many – around the globe and around the corner and around this room – are desperate to hear God’s story of mercy and hope and redemption; a story that is our charge, our challenge and our privilege to proclaim, in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified and raised to new life – and promising as much – for the sake of the world.